Tales from the Road #4 – Guilty as charged

This summer I embarked on a 2 week solo roadie around the East Coast of our North Island. In normal times, this would be an absolute indulgence; but this year even more so. I am very aware of how privileged I am to be able to do this. And I’m trying to fill and appreciate every moment

I also decided to take this opportunity to challenge myself writing wise… and so decided to “freelance” my blog…. Am asking for suggestions for blog topics,  and then giving myself 36 hours to write and publish the blog.

So here we go….

This guest requested a blog on guilt..

You wear guilt

Like shackles on your feet

Like a Halo in Reverse

Depeche Mode

As a Lapsed Catholic, I think guilt is fused into my DNA. I am often having conversations with people these days and I express the guilt I feel over something trivial and am met with looks of disbelief. And the logic bit of my brain agrees… but that doesn’t always translate into emotion. I often joke I could “Guilt for the Olympics”…

There are few emotions more pointless than needless guilt – I think jealousy may be the only thing higher on the list. There are very few things to feel really guilty about and dealing with them should be a priority. Apologise, atone, learn, and move on.

I’m not sure how practicing a faith that preaches love and forgiveness also comes with a side serving of crippling guilt, but it is a common theme amongst most of my non-practising/lapsed friends. We’ve all moved far from the rites, rituals, rules, and tenets… and yet, that guilt setting will persist.

And really, in life what do we actually need to feel guilty about? Harming others of course! If our actions damage, be it people, animals, or the environment, then its ONLY the things we do that we have control over, THOSE are the things we should feel guilt about. It is ironic, when I’m hurt by another’s actions, the very first thing I do is look at their intent… if it was an accident, or careless then its easily forgiven and we move on. Its only deliberate hurts that I really hold people to account from. And yet this is not the same standard I hold myself to?

Of course, a very important part of most addiction programmes contains a thread of forgiveness and atonement. As they should. I’ve seen it to be a very important part of recovery. By acknowledging the hurt done to you, and by taking responsibility for the hurt your addicted actions have inflicted on others, you can deal with the baggage that addiction brings. By seeing that the things people did to you, while not an “excuse” to use/drink, it provides an understanding as to why you found yourself  on the path you did.

And the process of acknowledging the hurt you caused is such an important part of taking responsibility for your actions and growing up. We all have to be responsible for our actions; drinking, drug taking, mental health issues do not give us a free pass to be careless with people. They are definitely the reason, but part of recovery is stepping up, saying “yes I did this; I am sorry, can I make it better?”…. and then move on..

And this is where irrational guilt kicks in. it serves no purpose at all to hold onto that feeling of self-blame. I carry guilt for things I did years ago. Things no doubt, all but forgotten by the person involved; and yet I continue to beat myself up about it. Logically I know it makes not sense. Part of My recovery has been letting go… and forgiving myself.

And maybe there lies the key. Why do we hold ourselves to such a high standard? Of course, we should be striving to be the best person we can. But there comes a point when it becomes a form of self-harm/hate. Nobody is perfect. Nobody is a saint. We all fuck up occasionally. As long as we keep our intentions kind; then that is possibly all we can do.

And we cannot feel guilty for the actions of others. Their actions, their responsibility. If we were instrumental in bringing them to the situation or relationship that they have screwed up in, then yes apologise for the introduction, but not THEIR actions. Especially if you were unaware of their base nature.

My current path of recovery/self-improvement/growth has had a massive component of watching my words. I am quick of wit, fast of thought (though getting slower with the years lol); and I loved being “clever” with no care as to how my words affected. It has taken a conscious decision to change this. Online there has been a massive number of deleted comments. And in RL, I try very hard to watch my words. I am reminded by a friend that ‘words matter’… And I try… and if I do screw up; then I immediately apologise and try to atone. I remind myself I am only human, and mistakes happen… and then I try to work on the guilt… because this is pointless guilt. When you are truly sorry, and you have let the person know you are sorry, and made up for it somehow… then you need to move on…

We often use the term “The Crushing Power of Guilt”. And it is. It is a negative emotion; it holds us back, because we continue to beat ourselves up; when we should just process it like every other emotion and event. It is an emotion of self. And depending on how deeply you cling on to guilt it could be the emotion of self-indulgence or self-harm…

The absolute joy of (newly acquired) self-awareness is…

I cannot undo what has been done

I can remember it

I can see it

I can learn from it…

and then….

I can move on….


not perfection…


He pakaru a waka

e taea te raupine mai


A damaged canoe

Can be repaired

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